'I knew he was going to fish'
Fran Beaird wore many hats in addition to a captain's wife hat
EDITOR’S NOTE: For the next few weeks leading up to the October Destin Fishing Rodeo, The Destin Log will be taking a look at some of the women behind the men that make their living on the water and what it’s like to be their helpmate.
Now retired, Fran Beaird has worn many hats over the years, including the hat of a charter boat wife.
Beaird, who was instrumental in the incorporation of Destin as well as serving as the city of Destin’s first city clerk, gladly took on the job of charter boat wife in the late '70s when her husband Capt. Ken Beaird got into the business, running the Reveille.
Married 60 years, the Beaird’s visited Destin over the Fourth of July weekend in 1965 and fell in love with the small fishing village.
“When we got here and saw that white sand and clear water, green wate,r I said this is it,” Ken said. “And she went along with it.”
Ken was in the Air Force and stationed at Hurlburt Field.
“I was fishing while I was flying,” he said, noting if he flew in the morning, he fished in the afternoon and visa versa.
And Fran kept herself busy as well.
“Ken and I became very involved,” she said.
They bought the Reveille Motel from the Trammel’s, which was located just east of where Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House is currently located on Destin harbor. Ken docked his boat on the docks behind the motel, and she worked as an aid for Rep. James Ward.
“She stayed busy between here and Tallahassee and I stayed busy with the boat,” Ken said.
“We stayed pretty busy,” Fran added.
As for the charter boat business back in the '70s and early '80s, it kept them tied to the phones.
“You had to stay at home, we didn’t have cellphones back then,” Fran said. “You had to have somebody there to answer the phone all the time.”
They hired the deckhand’s wife to help run the motel and answer the phone.
“Back in those days the fishermen didn’t want to talk to the booking agency or the wife, they wanted to talk to the captain," Ken said. "So when I got home I had a list of numbers to call.”
And in those early days, by the end of June a charter boat captain would have his books filled up through October and into November. Nowadays, they don’t book ahead as much, Ken said. They decide to go fishing after they get here.
“By the end of June we knew how the rest of our year was going to go,” Fran said. “It’s entirely different now. But I worked most of the time.
“When (Rep. James Ward) went to the legislature for those three months … I moved to Tallahassee too," she added. "In my eyes, I could see we needed to become a city in order to have any say so.”
Fran helped in the push for incorporation and later became the city of Destin’s first city clerk, where she served for six years. She also pushed in the early '90s to get the Mid-Bay Bridge built, which expands across Choctawhatchee Bay connecting Destin to the north county.
While wearing all those hats in the community, she also wore the hat of a fisherman’s wife.
However, she really didn’t like to fish.
“She went a couple of times,” Ken said.
Fran remembers going trolling a few times.
“She never wanted to go bottom fishing,” he said.
“I get deathly sea sick,” Fran said, noting she has inner ear problems.
Although she didn’t fish, she did and still does love to eat fish. Her favorites are red snapper and grouper.
“He always had his rod and reel on the top deck and catch fish,” she said.
“We ate a lot of fish back in those days,” Ken said.
As a matter of fact, they ate so much fish, their two daughters got tired of eating it, Fran said.
With Ken spending a lot of time on the water fishing, there were many times Fran got concerned for his safety.
“Every time a cloud came up,” she said.
“We’d have wind blowing 50 miles an hour right here and nothing 10 miles offshore,” Ken said.
“I can’t tell you how many times he would say, ‘Rain … what are you talking about?’ ” she said. “I’m just a worry wart.”
Ken got out of the fishing business back in 2010.
“I haven’t been in the Gulf in two years and I haven’t missed it,” Ken said.
However, neither Ken nor Fran regret the joint decision they made more than 35 years ago to go into the charter boat business in the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.”
“We’ve had a wonderful marriage,” Fran said. “I don’t think we would have had the opportunities to talk to people … we still have friendships with people from Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee that were his customers. If they come to Destin, we get together. They are lifetime friends.”
“It’s a different life and it’s not for everybody,” Ken said.
“My whole life has been God driven,” Fran said. “Never did I expect Ken would use his engineering degree from (Texas) A&M to become a charter boat captain. I assumed he’d be doing something different and so did his parents.”
Once his parents visited and helped them get established, “I don’t think they could have been more proud of him,” she said.
Nevertheless, Fran knew years ago when they started dating back in Texas that fishing was in his blood.
“When I started dating him, we went fishing," she said. "I’d take a book and he’d take a fishing rod because we lived close to the beach in Texas. I knew he was going to fish.”